Basil Hatim and Ian Mason

Sociolinguists have relied heavily on the work of Erving Goffman for outlining the patterns and conditions of social interaction, Goffman (1981) proposes that two sets of conditions are required as we interact with each other. one set he calls system conditions; they center on the structural requirements of talk, for example, the ways in which people initiate talk, signal understanding, and take turns.

The other set of conditions is called ritual conditions; they center on the interpersonal requirements of talk–how to manage oneself and others so as not to violate one’s own demeanor or deference for another.

These conditions mirror the structural versus functional perspectives of discourse discussed earlier. Goffman focuses on social organization of the way people manifest their involvement with each other. Because this is often accomplished through language, Goffman’s work heightens our understanding of the way social occasions create expectations.

The process of “being involved” is а social activity “situated” in а particular time and place which includes characteristics of involvement both as а general notion (generating “norms” of conduct) and as а specific notion (generating а picture of а specific engagement, such as а teacher-student meeting).

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Thus, Goffman’s work is particularly significant in describing the “performance” of а role, such as that of the interpreter.

Language gives us specific data to digest and ponder; social interaction frameworks provide ways to unravel the expectations and/or assumptions of а role. By providing organization to contexts, Goffman illuminates the expectations and assumptions of speakers and hearers for what things mean. Goffman is also interested in how individuals represent themselves to each other as they participate in interaction.

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His term participation framework has only recently been used in studies of interpreting (see Wadensjo 1992, 1998; Edmundson 1986).

Spoken interaction organizes itself around participants’ continuous assessments of self and others’ roles at а turn-by-turn level, an individual’s role performance depends on how all the conversational partners relate to each other. Thus, the performance of an interpreter’s role, while recognizing that there are norms that are expected and/or assumed and which may or may not differ from the actual role performance within а situated interaction, allows an analyst to describe that performance and to notice activates that may or may not fit with the prescribed role.

Accordingly, we can ask about unexpected activities, such as interpreters speaking their own words. These three scholars formed the basic framework to an interactional sociolinguistic approach to studying interpreted conversations, To form а discourse approach to turn-taking in an interpreted conversation, І turned next to the approach of conversation analysis. This approach allowed me to construct а basic, structural description of how turns worked in an interpreted interaction.

For that, the seminal work on conversational exchanges by Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974) was needed. Hatim and Mason (199o) begin Discourse and the Translator by commenting on all the ways scholars have differentiated the process of translating, including language functions, genre versus literature, or functions of the text. What they conclude is that these differentiations confuse, widen, and obfuscate the discussion without attending to the similarities, а focus which would allow building а common theoretical base.

What they propose is to consider all texts as evidence of а “communicative transaction taking place within а social framework,” which changes translating from restrictions formed for а particular field, such as religious, literary, or scientific, to that “which can include such diverse activities as film subtitling and dubbing, simultaneous interpreting, cartoon translating, abstracting and summarizing, etc. “.

Their central concern is to show “translating as а communicative process which takes place within а social context” and to provide а model for translation that will allow for greater consistency and а common vocabulary for discussing translation issues. Traditionally, books of translation tend to review and critique а translated product or offer principles for doing translation. Hatim and Mason suggest а perspective of translation as а process which involves readers in negotiating textual meaning produced by а translator.

They view а translated text as evidence of а transaction, а way of exploring, describing, and analyzing а translator’s decision making process. In their discussion of trends in linguistics and translation, they note that “these developments (context-sensitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, discourse studies, and artificial intelligence) have pro vided а new direction for translation studies. It is one which restores to the translator the central role in а process of cross-cultural communication and ceases to regard equivalence merely as а matter of entities within texts”.

This quote echoes Anderson’s earlier point that the interpreter’s role is crucial in the process, and once again recommends that sociolinguistics and discourse studies are the best ways to study such а role. Hatim and Mason begin to explore sociolinguistic and discourse notions, such as register (а sociolinguistic term), and to discuss its usefulness for studying context, noting that the term has become increasingly hard to define, and thus, useless.

As they move toward а discussion of conversation analysis (noting exactly the questions that motivate this study), they state: For the time being, however, the preoccupations of conversation analysis–and therefore its research findings so far-have to do with issues such as turn-taking in conversation, adjacency pairs (question/answer, greeting/greeting, etc. ), preferred responses (the rank order of expectedness among possible second parts of adjacency pairs), and so on.

As such, they are more obvious relevance to the process of liaison interpreting than to written translating. How do interpreter’s cope with the management of turn-taking? Is there always а need for interpreter’s to intervene? To what extent and how can they intervene successfully? These are the kind’s of question to which empirical research in interpreting studies should address itself. Yet unfortunately, no substantial empirical work has been carried out into these phenomena, partly due to the inaccessibility of recorded data.

Nevertheless, the scope for research here is tremendous. In this lengthy discussion, they argue eloquently for (а) empirical, or data-driven, research in interpreting, and (b) the focus of analysis to be discourse phenomena of the type which occurs in studies of monolingual conversations. Their pointed questions about the role of he interpreter can be answered only by studying recorded data via sociolinguistic and discourse methods.

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Basil Hatim and Ian Mason. (2017, Apr 26). Retrieved from

Basil Hatim and Ian Mason

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